Think Before You Toss Your Fast Food Receipts

These days, every dollar saved counts. And if you hit up your favorite fast food joint and immediately throw away your receipts, you may be missing out on discounts or even freebies. Scoring these savings is probably easier than you think, and doesn't even require joining a loyalty program.

Many popular casual and fast food chain restaurants offer coupon codes to customers who complete a satisfaction survey. McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Subway, IHOP, and others have been known to offer a free item or BOGO deal as a thank you when customers take the time to complete a survey or submit a review. To see if your transaction was eligible, make it a habit to read — or at least skim — your receipts. Often there is a QR code or website link connecting you to a survey. But some of these surveys and awards come with a deadline, so be sure to check right away. While some coupons limit how many times a customer can claim a discount, these limits rarely apply to satisfaction surveys if your transaction is selected.

When restaurants offer incentives for answering experience surveys, it's a win-win: It helps with quality control, kind of like a casual version of being a mystery shopper, plus you save money. But that's not the only way to save.

Additional ways to save at your favorite chain restaurants

If you are really into the savings game, there are other ways to save money on fast food — both with a receipt and without. If you regularly enjoy a particular chain like Starbucks or McDonald's, consider trying its loyalty program. Most rewards programs are usually through apps at the point of purchase, but if you forget to scan the transaction, most chains let you scan the receipt as a backup. In addition, receipt scanning apps like Fetch offer points you can exchange for gift cards after scanning your receipts, including popular fast food and casual dining receipts.

And if you're interested in an easy way to save that doesn't involve receipts, try signing up for email lists and birthday clubs affiliated with your favorite restaurant — many brands offer free items during your birthday month and other exclusive promotions. With all the ways to get free food at your favorite restaurants, you'll be saving in no time.